Augusto Monterroso is widely known for short stories characterized by brilliant satire and wit. Yet behind scathing allusions to the weaknesses and defects of the artistic and intellectual worlds, they show his generous and expansive sense of compassion. This book brings together for the first time in English the volumes Complete Works (and Other Stories) (Obras completas [y otros cuentos] 1959) and Perpetual Motion (Movimiento perpetuo 1972). Together, they reveal Monterroso as a foundational author of the new Latin American narrative.
These clever stories from an author born in Honduras of Guatemalan and Honduran heritage offer one surprise after another, although, as with many collections, readers may come to anticipate the surprise. "Mister Taylor" is a Boston native who travels to the Amazon and begins exporting shrunken heads back home, inspiring huge demand. Brother Bartolom Arrazola tries to use his scientific knowledge to escape from Indian sacrifice, not realizing that Mayans are more than knowledgeable about such things, in "The Eclipse." The brevity of these stories is often a surprise in itself. "The Dinosaur" consists of a single sentence, and "Perpetual Motion 1981" is not much longer; it is a Mobius strip of a story that lives up to its title. "Flies" introduces an obsession with flies that permeates the second half of the book, comparing the insects with the punishing Eumenides and Furies. And throughout the collection, Monterroso writes about the process of writing-most successfully in "Leopoldo (His Labors)," a story about a hapless writer that includes the hilarious journal he hopes to use for inspiration ("Tuesday the 12th Today I got up early but nothing happened to me"). Writers aren't supposed to write about writing, and probably someone has decided that stories should be longer than eight words. Or that flies are not fit for discussion. Monterroso's work is a welcome reminder of the futility of preconceptions.